More and more the society around was becoming alienated. Moving to this new town couple of years back there was a sense of homecoming for him. The feeling of things turning for the good was the resounding theme. He was least perturbed by the surrounding chaos, pushing you around like the famed Mumbai local. Though much of the old charm was hidden by the new, there were nooks and corners where you could relive the last decade.
Change is much like the turbulence which you face while on an aircraft. You know the certainty of it. But every time the air-borne beast dives head long into that patch your innards shudder a bit, grip tightening on the seats as if putting an effort to stabilise this disturbance. And most often it last for 20-30 seconds only. People have some standard responses in these situation. You will always find that family where the dad will be gripping the kids more so to comfort himself than the tots who will be writhing to get free. Then there is the ones with the slight hint of concern on their face, glancing from the corner of their eyes how the person next is coping with this. And always the cool ones, with no bother of the happening around either immersed on the song playing on the earphones or the book they seem not to be able to keep down.
He was like the second one on really good days and third one most the time of conscious existence. Lately the town had begun to lost it’s lure on him. He couldn’t quite separate this feeling from the turbulance he was going through in his personal life. There was a constant pressure to go out of his way of things to fit to an external demand. On occasion it was from his inner circle, the true bastion of self expression, and other occasions from the society. Many a time distinction is hard. Demands on him were to curb those, in favor of conformance and a misplaced sense of responsibility. The consequences was his and his only to bare. Others seem to have dismissed that like the most ludicruos connection could exist between the two.
You get a feeling in some situations that the vents are closing down fast. Lest you make the move the steer is gonna be yanked out of your hands and passed on to the next in line. With no certainty of when you will be able to be in charge the next time. He was in that space at least in it’s head. Outwards he was wearing the third type’s mask. He looked around the airplane to wonder has he got company here?
He stared listlessly at the road. The traffic moved by at a pace that reflected that of the urban city he inhabited. The pace gathered momentum at times and slumped often. It was rather leisurely at the moment. A continuous shot of the traffic zoomed fast enough will reveal a rhythm both in pace and light. To him the rhythm had lost its significance. A traveler van halted by him due to the traffic light. A dozen faces, some sober, some lost in conversation, some blank. It reminded him of a puppet show he saw back at a village. Except the theatrics or the anticipation. He pictured himself in the van among-st the dozen faces. The thought repulsed him instantly; like some of the intrusive thoughts we all have had at times. He smiled a sad smile which got lost in the rush to break free at the sign of green. By now he had gathered a vague familiarity with the faces passing by. What made matters worse for him was that he could listen to each and every one of them, even their thoughts. They were all unique, yet the same. They all knew him, but in the disguise of a by-stander couldn’t recognize him. He was quite a celebrity in this part of the world; and so everywhere else. Only few had the time to look at him. Of them many looked right through him as if he were transparent. They were all here but quite not here.
He lit up a cigarette and blew a hollow ring which faded in the rush. And so did he.
7.5 million. That’s the number of daily commuters taking the Mumbai suburban railway – mumbai local. That’s more than the population of many countries, put together. It has been called the pulse of mumbai, the lifeline and so on. For a girl coming from a romantic and serene state like Goa, the chaos that is Mumbai local was frightening and at the same time exhilarating. The rush of catching the train by the seconds; the calm before the storm at bandra station; the people both ruthless and going out of their way to help; the guilty pleasure of a harmless touch in the crowd.
Its filthy, the local trains. Ruthless, arrogant, pushy and maddening. Why should I take a local train when a cab ride is so comfy. The traffic never bothered me anyway (‘Frozen’ tune playing in head). ‘Pudhil station thane’ ! Aargh…why is that repeating in my head.
I had made up my mind to tell him what I felt. He definitely must have a hint of what I have in mind. I am sure he feels it too. But does he? Why does he act so distant at times then? What was he thinking taking me to that restaurant…Bagdadi! eh..what a dump. Girl, focus! Pudhil station Ghatkopar. My heartbeat seamed to have been synced to the rhythm of the train. Okay, here it goes.
The silence was overbearing. Steady rhythm of the train almost reaching a crescendo in my heart. Feeling of numbness. ‘I am sorry. I don’t think I can see you that way’, that’s what he said. In the gushing wind through the open compartment a silent cry escaped me. He mustn’t have heard it. How can someone be so near, yet so distant? I waited all these years for this moment. To be turned down by the first guy I opened my heart to. Somethings not right. This is not how it was supposed to be. I wanted the train to stop. I needed it to feel with me. It meaninglessly kept on its stride.
To think I loved travelling on the local. So naive I was. It doesn’t have a rhythm. Just a static pulse. A heartless static pulse.
A city with no serene beaches or breathtaking mountain views. Traffics a mess here and city planning seems to have been done by underpant gnomes(South Park). A city of blood-sucking-parasite-of-rickshawallahs and dreamy software folks. India’s Silicon Valley with innovations borrowed and adapted from the West & a Garden City bleeding concrete.
Yet the city thrives. With a calming pulse unlike any other city. Its a pulse which is not captured in those wide angle-skyscrapers cityline-flashing traffic-late night shots. Its right here in the middle of this stalling silk-board traffic. Or there by the white sand on the madiwala lake side. Or in any one of the numerous cafes mushrooming in the city. Roll your windows down, shuffle your playlist and zip up your jacket. There is no hurry. Its a city you don’t have to get away from on a weekend.
A romantic’s view this is. Nevertheless I am sure many people will reflect similar sentiments. I have a good mind to call this the Buddha city. That has a nice ring to it. Calm in the eye of the storm feeling.
But then this might be the reflection of the state of my mind. I choose not to believe that as it has been definitely inspired by this place and it has to be given credit for what it is. And I see a cloud creeping into my mind. Is it the place or the people here?
Well lets keep that for another post, another day. For now let me dwell in this calm. Of the Buddha City.